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(But what about a bad one?)

By Chip Haynes

Editor Note: This piece from Floridian cycling essayist Chip Haynes first appeared in Mason's Wire Donkey Bike Zine. Subscription information follows this essay.

It was a tough summer down here in Florida--storm after storm has left us fairly well battered. We don't need any more challenges. I sure don't. Nevertheless, there I was, out in the yard one afternoon picking up debris from one of our many storms, when I looked up to see a neighbor heading way with a bicycle--and did I want it?

Okay, so I'm going to tell you right now that I am not, sometimes, the fastest bunny in the hedge. The fact that he was carrying the bike, and not rolling it, should have been a tip off. So should the fact that I had seen this bike in his yard a few days before and remembered seeing that it was a complete mess. But no. Before I could stop myself, I said. "Sure, I'll take that bike!" What was I thinking? (Hint: I wasn't.) Ugh. what have I done?

A few days later, after getting the yard squared away and the garage cleaned up a bit, I was finally able to rack that bike up in the repair stand and give it a look-see.

What a mess! The bike is a cheap department store mountain bike. A Roadmaster, I think. (The tube decals are worn off.) The chain was so rusted in place I had to cut it off with bolt cutters in several places to remove it. The rear derailleur was bent back up around the rear wheel and and the freewheel was a solid bundle of rust. The front derailleur was no better. Never underestimate the abusive power of kids. I pulled off the rear wheel and pitched the freewheel and derailleurs. I saved the cables and shifters. The rear wheel bearings are crunchy, so I'll need to rebuild that. I'll also pull off the rusted triple steel chain rings and add just a single ring in their place. The bike will end up a single speed, that's okay.

I fell like walking down to my neighbor and telling him to never, ever buy his kids another bicycle. Make them walk--they could use the exercise. Of course, by now, those kids won't go anywhere unless Mom or Dad drive them. They're at the (teen) age. The rear brake pads were worn down to the metal, and yet the front one were as new. And the most amazing bit of abuse on the whole bike: The flat steel kickstand brace--the thing that gets welded between the chain stays down  behind the bottom bracket--was bent. Bent. I'd never seen that before. How do you bend that? Easy: Just have a big fat kid sit on the bike as it stands with the kickstand down. I'm not sure I can save the kickstand, by the way.

When I'm done with the bike, it will be a serviceable single speed. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but it's a good bet it is not going back to that family. I'm asking around. The whole idea here is to get a bicycle to someone that can use it and back out on the road. This one's going to be a challenge. (I hope I've got enough spare chain.) I'm loathe to spend real money on a bike this cheap, but on the other hand, I see no reason to simply throw it away. This one's a tough call.

If you take care of a bicycle, it will last a long, long time. Even a cheap one. Abuse it, ignore it, and leave it out in the yard for weeks at a time, and the poor bike will be dead and gone before you know it. I don't know why I'm bringing this bike back, and I have no idea who might end up with it--but it will be a decent ride I'm done with it later this week.

I comes down to this: I guess we have to save the bikes because sometimes they can't save themselves.

For Wire Donkey subscription info, contact Mason St. Clair, Editor and Founder, 3620 Rolland Road, Nashville, TN 37205-2434. Email masonbike@aol.com

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